Tonawanda News — Right off the bat, Nehemiah Stone knew it was bad.
Participating in a skills camp in early August just a few short weeks before high school practices began, the junior North Tonawanda running took a hit and fell awkwardly — and the rest of the memory was washed out in a blur of pain.
“I was running the ball on a trap play. I made a cut but then got hit in the back and the knee gave out. It was easily the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Stone said.
He had an MRI done on his left knee and discovered that he had suffered a partially torn ACL.
And after already posting two standout seasons with the Lumberjack varsity football squad, Stone abruptly thought he could kiss his junior season goodbye.
“I was devastated,” he said. “It was the worst thing ever, knowing that I couldn’t be out there with my team and play. I knew it was bad, but I wanted to play no matter what.”
So the 5-foot-8, 175-pound all-purpose player tried to gut it out once practice began a few weeks later.
But it didn’t last.
“He’s such a competitor,” coach Tony Truilizio said. “He thought he’d be fine because it started to feel better. Then we saw him get hit, and he buckled and said he was done.”
So the Lumberjacks opened the season without their star running back, linebacker and return man.
The results were not pretty as NT lost three straight games after beating Lake Shore in Week One of the season — all but ending any chance to make the sectional playoffs.
“Having to watch was horrible — especially those first three games that we lost,” Stone said. “I’m not saying we would have won if I had played, but it was tough to see.”